Exiting the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) may become a top priority in the next Conservative manifesto. The move will be considered if the European Courts of Human Rights prevents the Conservative government’s latest attempts to curb immigration.
As the Sunday Times revealed, if the Government’s policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda is approved by UK courts but not by the European Court of Human Rights, Rishi Sunak would consider pulling out of the treaty.
The Conservative government is also considering measures to crack down on migrants who come to the UK illegally. The proposals have come in response to the nearly 65,000 migrants predicted to cross the Channel in 2023. To stop channel migrants from raising human rights claims, the Conservatives are also seeking to restrict appeals in deportation cases.
Calls to leave the ECHR have been supported by the right of the party. As reported by Sky News, a Tory MP group chat leaked last week revealed several party members’ fears that the Rwanda plan would be impossible without leaving the ECHR.
However, the move would likely face opposition in the House of Lords and could lose the party several seats. The idea of exiting the ECHR has even provoked criticism from within the party. One Conservative MP told the Financial Times, ‘If Conservatives don’t believe in the rule of law, what do we believe in?’.
The Rwanda plan may be approved as the ECHR could be unwilling to go against the decision of the UK High Court that the plan was unlawful. Additionally, a source close to Sunak stated the government is confident the legislation will be passed. However, in June of 2022, the ECHR stopped the first deportation flight to Rwanda on the basis that it violated rights set out in the convention. This shows that there is a possibility that Strasbourg will rule against the legislation and that calls to leave the ECHR may grow stronger.